Abdon Pena-Francesch receives AFOSR YIP Award

Three-year grant will help advance robotic performance in soft materials.
Abdon Pena-Francesch receives AFOSR YIP Award

Assistant Professor Abdon Pena-Francesch

MSE is pleased to announce that Assistant Professor Abdon Pena-Francesch’s proposal, "Dynamic Polymer Networks for Resilient and Adaptive Soft Machines,” has been selected by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to receive a Young Investigator Program (YIP) award

Pena-Francesch's three-year grant is part of $21.5M awarded to 48 early-career scientists and engineers across the country.

“I am very honored to receive this opportunity and very excited to begin working on new functional polymers for adaptive shape-morphing machines,” said Pena-Francesch. “Soft materials have recently enabled innovative technology to advance robotic performance in many applications relevant to the Air Force. However, due to their inherent 'softness,' they are typically vulnerable to changing harsh conditions in operating environments, and thus present inherent durability and reliability problems. In this project, we will develop dynamic polymers and morphing structures that can adapt to these changing field conditions, reconfigure their function on demand, and autonomously repair themselves without loss of performance, and will be demonstrated in adaptive multimodal soft robots with distributed sensing, actuation, and morphing. We are very excited to work with the Mechanics of Multifunctional Materials and Microsystems Program of the AFOSR, and are looking forward to beginning the work!”

The AFOSR YIP awards are one of the most prestigious honors bestowed by the Air Force to outstanding scientists beginning their independent careers. Individuals must have received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last seven years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research of DAF relevance. Pena-Francesch received his PhD in 2017 from Pennsylvania State University.

“Through the YIP, the Department of the Air Force fosters creative basic research in science and engineering, enhances early career development of outstanding young investigators and increases opportunities for the young investigators to engage in forwarding the Department of the Air Force, or DAF mission and related challenges in science and engineering,” said Ellen Robinson, AFOSR YIP program manager, who added that they received more than 159 applications for FY24 funding.